The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

The Student News Site of Archbishop Mitty High School

The Monarch

Meet the Sizzling New KBBQ Spot: Valley Fair’s Baekjeong

Seniors Stephanie Ahn, Terena Nguyen, and Elly Nguyen critique San Jose’s hottest new KBBQ spot: Baekjeong.

The conspicuously mint-green restaurant Baekjeong at Valley Fair is hard to miss and even harder to pass up. Its bold aroma of sizzling Korean BBQ wafts through the outdoor strip, and lured us—seniors Stephanie Ahn, Terena Nguyen, and Elly Nguyen—in. Or rather, it coaxed us onto the restaurant’s lengthy waiting list.

Baekjeong’s ability to bring its mission statement to life, “to serve the highest quality meats and offer a truly outstanding Korean cultural dining experience” has earned the restaurant its renowned name throughout multiple other locations, in cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and Honolulu. Baekjeong received major hype, so we decided it was time for the restaurant to receive our critiques. On our recent early-dismissal day from classes, the three of us zoomed to our noon reservations (made a month in advance—kudos to Elly) to the Korean hotspot. This review dissects Baekjong into three parts: ambiance, taste, and price. Spoiler alert: it’s worth the Valley Fair parking battle, if mildly strenuous on the wallet.

Ambience: 8/10     

The restaurant’s space is deceivingly large given its residence atop two other establishments. As you walk up the flight of stairs, traditional Korean architecture greeted us, but not to worry before the outrageous flight of stairs, there is also an elevator on the side for better accessibility for all. The place was bustling with a full house of customers though it was midday on a weekday—hence why reservations are generally recommended. Upon arriving at our table next to the window, we saw it was already set with an array of mouthwatering side dishes—including complimentary corn cheese and egg, salt for dipping, and a pitcher of cold water—not to mention the traditional KBBQ grill and smoke extractor looming from the ceiling. 

If you have never been to a Korean BBQ before and fear not knowing how to grill meat, look no further, as Baekjeong’s staff grill the meat for you (a bit uncommon for most Korean restaurants where you typically grill the meat yourself). As a customer, you don’t even have to lift a finger. The service was fantastic: our server took time and precision to grill and cut the meat, even considering our meat preferences like medium rare or well-done in a clearly curated process. 

Taste: 8.83/10

Among the three of us, we ordered the steak tartare, seafood ramen, and small Hodong meat set. Our server even took time to dress the steak tartare with raw egg, garlic, onions, sprouts, and pine nuts and mix it in front of us to mash it into an adorable heart. The steak tartare was sweet and savory from the different dressings, but still retained its fresh meaty taste.         

The small Hodong meat set was perhaps the most anticipated course of the day. Along with a complimentary choice of stew (we chose soybean), the set included two kinds of pork—pork belly and marinated pork steak—and two kinds of beef—thinly-sliced beef brisket and boneless short ribs. The piping hot soybean stew, “doenjangjjigae” in Korean, was especially delicious, salty with a little kick to it. Rich in flavors of the zucchini, mushrooms, and onions in the soup, it balanced the grease of the meat well and was comforting for the rainy day. Speaking of the meat, it was fresh and hot off the grill, melting in your mouth with each bite. Our personal favorites were the beef brisket and pork belly—pro tip: ask for ssamjang (soybean paste) to pair with the pork belly.

The only bust of the lunch was the seafood ramen. We’d already had complimentary rice, so finishing the ramen felt more like fulfilling a burden of eating what we paid for, rather than enjoying slurping it down for the taste. Simply put, the broth was watered down and not hot enough to our satisfaction. Our resident ramen expert Terena agreed that even a $1.20 pack of instant Buldak ramen would satiate her cravings better than this poor excuse for seafood ramen.  

Price: 7.67/10

For a casual day of shopping, spending around $100 to feed 3-4 people seems incredibly expensive, but was it worth it? For us, our total added up to $111 (not including tax or tip), but splitting the bill made the dent in our wallets a little less severe—Baekjeong is best suited for big groups, celebrating big things. Yes, eating at other AYCE (all-you-can-eat) KBBQ restaurants may be a better “bang for your buck,” but the meat quality at Baekjeong is truly unmatched, and a stroll through Valley Fair to debloat was very much necessary. 

Furthermore, having ordered a set rather than ordering a la carte not only saved us from teenage indecisiveness but also significant digits. As per the Korean dining culture, Baekjeong had also adorned the table with complimentary, unlimited side dishes—corn cheese, egg omelet, and rice—justifying the price a tad bit more. So was it worth it? Yes, if you’re celebrating something big with a big group, but besides that, probably not. 

About the Contributors
Stephanie Ahn, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Stephanie Ahn is a senior staff editor for the Arts and Entertainment section. She started writing for The Monarch in freshman year and has been an editor for the past two years, enjoying working with fellow writers and formatting the article designs. She is passionate about journalism in the entertainment and environmental justice world as well as creative writing as a hobby, having been published for her poetry in The Alcott Youth Magazine. Stephanie likes driving with her friends, listening to music, and eating good food.  
Terena Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief
Terena Nguyen is a senior staff editor-in-chief for the Justice Awareness section. She started writing for The Monarch in sophomore year and has been an editor for the past two years. She is planning on pursuing the pre-med path in biochemistry and currently enjoys volunteering at Regional Medical Center locally as well as in hospitals in Vietnam. Terena likes hanging out with friends, driving below the speed limit, and thrifting. A fun fact about her is she drinks three venti coffees a day and lives in the library.